Last week, Nintendo decided to take away monetization of videos such as reviews, Let’s Plays and reviews from their fans. While copyright law is very complex when it comes to fair use and making derivative works, attacking a fandom by taking down Youtube channels, banning fanart and sending cease and deist letters to take down fanmade games can hurt their goodwill and reputation.
While we have seen this with video games with Sega taking down Shining Force videos last year and Husbro putting an end to a fan-made My Little Pony fighting game early this year, what about Anime? Yes, it exists and there are very negative implications that can occur from fan backlash. I will focus on several reasons why companies should not attack the fans for making fan generated content and instead, should support them. (Image Source)
With the Internet, we use new media to get information about a particular game or something on a blog, audio podcast, social networking or in a Youtube video compared to reading a review on sites like IGN. Because of this, we can make informed decisions on whether or not someone should buy a particular game, Anime DVDs, Anime Music CDs, etc. This has been particularly useful for games since someone can see how the game plays in someone’s Let’s Play before buying it. You will probably do the same with Anime since you can read other people’s opinions about a particular show before buying the Blu-ray/DVD or watch it. Because of this, I feel that companies should support fan driven reviews and content since it’s basically free advertising for their work. Since Anime is a pretty obscure medium outside the fandom, Anime companies basically need its overseas fans more than we do. However, not all companies realize this and decide do take it down anyways.
On the other hand, there have been some instances where companies sent cease and desist letters in some instances. While we have heard several instances where Animation studios and licensing companies took down fansubs because of it’s legality issues, there are some silly reasons where they sent a cease and desist letters for using screen shots of the video. One of these instances happened in 2009 when Lantis sent a letter to bloggers prohibiting bloggers from using screencaps for any use. They think that people won’t buy the DVDs because a person can simply read a blog post filled with screenshots. From this, I feel that they don’t know the repercussions behind their actions even if screenshots are fair use and used to help the reader understand the content. Just think about it, what if Toei Animation decided to send takedown letters for people blogging about One Piece. People are going to stop blogging about it and write about a different series. As a result, it will hurt sales for their DVDs and related merchandise. Basically, it’s a lose-lose situation for both the fans and the companies who produce Anime as there will be less reviews and fan content.
As for fan-generated content, it gets hazier. While bans on fan works are rare in Japan, there have been some instances where companies cracked down on fan-generated content. For instance, Kadokawa in 2008 requested that a doujin group take down a Haruhi Suzumiya fan-made fighting game. Of course it doesn’t stop here as Kodansha tried to deter people from using their characters from the fan work. I feel that attacking fan-generated content can be just as harmful as taking down reviews as it can destroy the entire fandom for a certain series. Fan content in general is good for a franchise as fans can make something creative like a fighting game or a piece of fanart to show their passion towards it. Basically, this type of content can make someone become interested in the source material. If you take that away, it will be bad for the creator, the animation studios who make the shows and the distribution companies because nobody will buy his/her products from the backlash. However, I can understand Anime Music Video takedowns since companies don’t want people distributing their music for free.
In the end, I think it’s wrong for companies to attack the fans in order to take down content since fans gives free marketing their product through fan works. While there should be a line drawn in regards to Fansubs and AMVs, for other content, studios, licensing companies, etc. should take advantage of fan-generated content. Let’s face it, hyping up a product costs a lot of money and most Anime distribution companies like Funimation and Sentai Filmworks aren’t willing to do this. Because of this, companies need to tolerate fan-generated content and listen to its fans so people will continue to support their products.
With that, here are some things to think about: Do you think that the Anime Industry should attack its fans by removing their content or support them?